Just when I thought there couldn’t be another year with more changes than in 2020 or 2021 or 2022, in walks 2023, a two-faced, chameleon riddled with irony, humor and lots of changes. What a year it was, and what a year it is going to be! I’m grateful for every moment because gratitude isn’t conditional; it is all encompassing. Successes or happy moments boost our mood or fill a void, and failures are just as important because they teach us lessons or validate the importance of stepping outside our comfort zones and taking chances. Now that 2023 is in the past, I’m grateful for all the ups and downs last year brought.
But you likely know all this already…
I’ve been asked a few times last month whether I have new year’s resolutions. My short response was my resolutions generally don’t change. So, I thought I’d take a break from writing about writing by addressing this question in a slightly different way--taking a stab at what I think some life lessons may be. Despite my slight aversion to the onslaught of numbered lists that are flooding social media, I offer you my 11 ways to live life because the number 11 has been good to me. I would love to hear what you think…I’m going for a walk.
1. Accept that life isn’t easy…so don’t try to make it harder. The sooner you realize that many things in life are out of your control, from the weather to the ending of a good movie to the amount of traffic on a bustling highway, the happier you will be. Our lives are spattered with challenges and pitfalls so why make it harder by resisting those things you cannot change? Isn’t it better to embrace the good things in life?
2. Listen more; talk less. You can learn so much more if you pause and listen. Meditating does not mean you need to sit with your legs crossed and your palms facing upward while you hum surrounded by candles. It can mean listening to the chatter of small children; listening to the shrill melody of morning birds; listening to the wise and weathered advice of a senior citizen; listening to the rhythmic sleeping of the one you love; listening to the silence of an early morning before the sun rises; and most of all, listening to what people have to say…because you don’t know everything.
3. Be kind to yourself and others. Complaining and speaking ill of others will never lead to the road toward happiness. It might make you feel better temporarily, but sooner or later the resentment festers inside you like mold in a dark, damp crevice. Avoid making self-deprecating comments too because they not only damage you, but they can also create a negative image and model for your children and hurt the ones who love you most. In short, have empathy and compassion for yourself and others. Positive connections are far more powerful in creating happiness.
4. Don’t forget about animals when you’re caring for others. Because they deserve it, and you’ll be happy you did. Besides, there’s no better way to fully understand unconditional love and be mindful of living in the present.
5. Stop expecting. You are only in control of your own actions so avoid expecting others to behave and act the way you’d like them to. You don’t have the right to tell others how to live, but you do have the right to leave and live the way you choose.
6. Realize that there are many ways to be successful. Success doesn’t simply mean having a six-figure income, a bulging mortgage and the shower of attention by many. Success can come in the form of having the courage to leave a bad situation or making a profound impact on the life of another.
7. Ask for help and love fearlessly. Avoid being so egocentric that you think you can or need to do this all on your own. Besides, showing people you need their help can be so rewarding for that person. And when it comes to love, don’t be afraid to look silly or be uncomfortable in your expression.
8. Use technology less. In this modern age, everything has become so convenient. We even have refrigerators that can take a photo of the contents inside! AI promises to deepen this reliance on technology even more. Instead, make a list, soak up a scene with your eyes, ears and nose…and get outside! Use a beginner's mind as much as you can. Thoreau knew what he was talking about!
9. Read…and write! The more you read, the better you will write…and the better you will feel. The words of others have been known to inspire many so keep a pen handy while reading your book. Enjoy the time you spend living inside someone else’s story. You don’t need to be Shakespeare to feel the cathartic effects of reading and writing.
10. Make sure you fail. Yes, you heard that right. I thought it bears repeating.
11. Realize and relish the fact that life can’t be neatly encapsulated in 10 easy steps.